Renewing Limited Government: Debt Limits
A Nation On Borrowed Money Is Also On Borrowed Time
America is coming to the growing realization that the biggest threat to our national existence is the growth of our government. Perhaps almost everyone gets this, though there is a loud minority that appears to feel the "collapse of the system" would be a good thing. Ronald Reagan told us government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem... but this minority thinks different.
For the past few weeks, a crowd of "useful idiots" has been staging a protest to "occupy Wall Street" in New York, and now they've spread to other American cities. Perhaps the idea is to give malodorous hippies a new place to hang out after their "occupation" of the Wisconsin state capitol was unsuccessful... many of the participants (as interviewed on TV) don't seem to have much of an idea what other purpose they might be serving. They're against the banks, I guess, and greed... and, well, one guy summed it up by saying they're "against everything."
Today, a poll of the pungent group revealed that one of their top demands to fix "everything" is a "maximum wage law." Progressives have sought a ceiling on private wealth and prosperity for the entirety of the century-long progressive movement. They also want to limit the amount of profit a bank, or any private commercial enterprise, can earn.
In other words, the progressives are statists. They're serious when they say they want the government not just big, but all-encompassing and all-controlling. It's been tried: see "Union, Soviet" and "China, Communist"... even "Reich, Third." Since (as the eloquent Mark Steyn points out in his new book) the people shrink as the government grows, the first step toward total government is to begin to put limits on the people. Limit the people, progressively increase those limits, and eventually you have the statist Utopia of which the Left dreams.
America's Founders had completely the opposite idea. Theirs was not the first bloody revolution in history by which the shackles of an overreaching government were thrown off the people; it wasn't the last, either, and unfortunately we haven't seen the last such cataclysm. But what made the American revolution different was what the people did with the power when they wrestled it away from Great Britain. They limited it. They created a true Constitutional republic dedicated to the notion that the citizens could rule themselves with minimal government interference. They wanted the people (represented by the free economy) to grow, and the government to be severely limited.
It has taken a hundred years, but the statists have managed to get too many Americans to forget that. Progressives have taken over the major institutions of influence in the United States, starting with the universities and continuing through the media, the government, and even the entertainment industry (when's the last time you saw a movie, other than "Atlas Shrugged," that championed limited government?). Despite a few lucky "breaks" during that century (Reagan, foremost), American thinking has progressed steadily toward statism and away from adherence to the once-revered Constitution that limits our government and protects us from it.
America's Founders would be shocked at the things that've grown wildly out of control in the past hundred years, and now there are at least seven limits on government (and three on quasi-governmental institutions) that need to be renewed in order to re-found America as it was intended to be. Our Founders would not recognize our academic institutions, our big-money civil courts, or our big-money labor unions; we should limit tenure, litigation, and union dues. But they would know what to do with the government they started, and which has grown beyond their (or anyone's) imagining.
The Founders took their brief turns in service and left us powerful, brief founding documents; today, career politicians grow rich for decades in power, and they saddle us with thousand-page laws that erode our freedoms. Limit both terms and pages! Our nation's leaders used to be frugal with the peoples' money; today, the government acts like every dime you earn belongs foremost to them, and they spend it like drunken sailors (Reagan famously said that's an insult to drunken sailors, because the sailors spend their own money). Limit taxation and spending! President Jefferson had to write his own memos, and finally hired a secretary to scribe what little paperwork he needed to generate; today, presidents seem to score themselves on how many bureaucracies they can spawn and how many new undebated, un-voted-upon rules they can come up with. Limit bureaucracy and regulations!
And, of course, limit debt.
It's insane that we spent most of this summer debating a multi-trillion (with a trill) increase in our federal debt ceiling. It's even more insane that our government agreed to the increase! If we could return to Constitutional limited government, spending would be dramatically cut, taxes would go down, and federal revenue would skyrocket. Why? The people would expand, doing what we do best: starting businesses, creating wealth, creating opportunities. Deep as it is, you could imagine the government actually climbing out of the debt hole it's excavated... but only if all these limits were seriously restored.
U.S. government debt should be limited to a fraction of what it is today - say, one trillion dollars after we've had a chance to renew limited government for a few years - and the limit should be strictly enforced. It's not only possible; if we want the nation to survive, it's necessary.
We can - and must - focus on renewing limited government in America. We must grow the people and the economy, and shrink the enormous edifice that is our national government. The life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of the entire world depends vitally upon it.